Although some seniors may not be able to tell you about abuse due to mental and physical disabilities such as dementia or stroke, others may simply not know how to communicate what they are experiencing. It can be extremely challenging to talk with an elderly individual experiencing abuse.
Here are some tips about how you can better communicate and learn about instances of abuse before irreparable harm occurs:
- Show respect. Address your loved one with care and compassion. Do not talk about them to others as if they are not in the room. If you talk to them as an equal, they will be more comfortable sharing information with you and keeping you informed of how they are feeling.
- Phrase well. Have a conversation with your loved one, not an inquisition. Instead of telling them what to do, invite them to participate. They are not likely to open up to you if you force them to. Let the conversation flow naturally, and give them a chance to share when they are ready.
- Show sensitivity. Listen to their feelings and find the meaning behind their words. Don't simply project positive emotions if your loved one is voicing fears. Listen to their concerns and validate their emotions. If they say something that piques your interest, gently ask them to go into more detail about how they are feeling and why. Studies show that mortality rates increase when an elderly person's pain is ignored.
- Eliminate distractions. When trying to have a productive conversation with your loved one, make sure that both their focus and your focus are at the issue at hand. It's difficult to have a deep conversation if an individual is watching TV and you are also dealing with your kids. Concentrate on each other and what is being said. It doesn't matter if they talk to you at all if you aren't listening.